What you need to know about Driving in Panama

Before renting a car people often ask a friend in Panama, "what’s driving in Panama like?" Depending on who you ask, their answers might range from easy, to chaotic or even downright scary!

The truth is if you are a confident driver you can probably handle driving in Panama City. And if you can handle the drive out of city traffic, once you arrive in the Pacific Beach Communities outside of Panama City, like Coronado, Gorgona or San Carlos, getting around by car is a breeze. 

Many people in Panama rely on The WAZE app. The app is helpful for a couple of reasons. 1) it helps users find their way from place to place. 2) It helps people avoid traffic! Along with the WAZE app, there are a couple of keys to driving in Panama, one of which is, good timing. 

Avoid the Rush!

Timing is everything when it comes to driving in Panama. So, if you can avoid traveling during rush hours,  you will save a lot of time! Planning to drive into or out of Panama City? Be aware of lane inversion that occurs on weekend, holidays and long weekends. 

The lane inversion can get pretty crazy and cause heaps of traffic on already congested dates. the Inter-Americana will at times only go one way (west) out of Panama City at the start of the holiday. And will switch to the reverse at the end of the holiday,

Know The Rules of the Road 

Sometimes driving in Panama might seem like a bit of a free for all. However, it’s important to keep in mind, there are rules on these roads. Here are a few big ones! 

Don’t use your phone calls or engage in texting while driving. Passengers must wear seat belts. Children 5 years & under must be in a car seat. The law requires you to wear a shirt when driving (this is enforced, maybe even more so than the above laws). 

It is against the law to drink and drive in Panama. If you are caught drinking and driving, you will be fined and may have your vehicle retained. 

The Third Lane often sprouts when traffic is heavy on the highway. Know that driving on to the shoulder is illegal in Panama. Bus stops, bridges and other hazards on the shoulder make drivers who use this lane a danger to themselves and others on the road.  

Have the required Documents

If you are a foreigner in Panama you are expected to carry the following items: 

Your Passport (or cedula if you are a resident), a valid driving license (from any country), Current vehicle registration, Proof of liability insurance. 

Along with your required documentation, by law, you are also supposed to carry an array of other things in your car. These things include" 

An accident report form, Driver’s manual, fire extinguisher and triangle reflectors in case you need to pull over on the side of the road. 

If you are a foreigner in Panama visiting the country on a tourist visa, you can only drive for 3 months. 

Speed Limits (A road-trippers roll-a-coster) 

The speed limits on the Inter-Americana change often to say the least, and there are little to no signs indicating these changes. The rule of thumb in Panama is if you pass a school, a police station and start to see more houses and businesses you are likely in a town. This means the limit has dropped, likely from 80 to 60 km. 

Speed traps

Often you will see a Police officer pulled to the side of the road. It is likely this officer is checking speed limits in an area where the limit is lower than average. It is a good idea to respect the speed limit in Panama. Not only because of speed traps, but also due to lack of infrastructure. At any time people, chickens, or stray dogs maybe crossing the 4 lane highway. 

Road signs?

No Spanish? No worry! Panama is totally lacking in proper signage, basically anywhere you travel. But don’t let any of this discourage you from driving in Panama, because driving in Panama also offers the ultimate freedom to explore!

There are plenty of rewards for the adventurous who decide to get behind the wheel and drive their own adventure here at the beach. From roadside waterfalls to pit stops at the country’s best fondas. One of the biggest suggestions we can make is to rent your car at the beach and avoid driving from the city. Active Auto Coronado offers free pick up from the airport with any car rental over 3 months.

See what Panama has to offer! Inquire about longterm vehicle rentals starting as low as $600/month - Email: activeautocoronado@gmail.com | or call (507) 6881-3214